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Two Alumni Win Soros Fellowships for Graduate Study

Fellowships support talented immigrants and children of immigrants

The PD Soros Fellowships, established in 1998, award up to $90,000 to immigrants and children of immigrants to complete graduate studies in the United States. Applicants are selected based on their potential to make significant contributions to American society, culture, or their academic field.

Anna Li is a true “Duke baby,” born at Duke Hospital, the second child of Chinese parents who immigrated to the United States. Li returned to Duke to graduate in 2018 majoring in cell and molecular biology.

Li is now an M.D./Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, pursuing her Ph.D. in computational biology, working on developing custom-engineered bacteriophages (viruses that target bacteria) to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. She said her work is inspired by a childhood friend with cystic fibrosis.

Li is also the founder and CEO of Korion Health, a health-tech startup that uses accessible technology to empower DIY health screenings from home, starting with an electronic stethoscope and patient-friendly interface.

Shomik Verma is a 2019 B.S. alumnus of mechanical engineering at Duke. A Marshall Scholar, he completed a pair of master’s degrees in materials science at the University of Cambridge and at Imperial College, London, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was born to Indian parents in the United States.

Over the course of his Ph.D. studies at MIT, Verma hopes to further develop his technical prowess in both experimental and multi-scale modeling of materials and transport properties to design efficient thermophotovoltaics systems. In addition to building technical expertise, he also hopes to work with a broad spectrum of faculty and students to bring interdisciplinary solutions to modern energy problems.

The 2023 fellows are naturalized citizens, green card holders, refugees, asylees, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, or the children of immigrants. Their backgrounds reflect much of the diversity of recent immigrants and refugees in the United States. Li and Verma join 18 other Duke alumni and students who have been awarded the PD Soros Fellowship in the past.

Hungarian immigrants Daisy M. Soros and Paul Soros (1926-2013) founded the program in 1998. A complete list of this year’s fellowship winners can be found on the fellowship website.